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02.02.10

The 15 Most Brilliant Super Bowl Ads

Don Draper take note, The Daily Beast analyzed 235 Super Bowl commercials and came up with 15 that actually made people buy stuff. PLUS, view the worst Super Bowl ad ever.

Don Draper take note, The Daily Beast analyzed 235 Super Bowl commercials and came up with 15 that actually made people buy stuff. PLUS, view the worst Super Bowl ad ever and click here to watch the best ads from this year's Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl isn’t a sporting event. It’s a business. And that business is advertising. This year, with every ad spot already sold out, prices topped out at more than $3 million, according to the Associated Press. Marketers shell out premium bucks to capture 100 or so million eyeballs, more than half of which are more interested in the ads than the football, according to Nielsen.

While Monday morning advertising quarterbacks will make lists about which ads were the best and the worst, based on whim, buzz and focus group, only one thing ultimately counts in advertising: does it sell product?

Click Image Below to Watch the Best-Performing Super Bowl Ads of Recent Years

To try to quantify which ads actually did that, The Daily Beast analyzed 235 Super Bowl advertisements from the past five years. In terms of effectiveness, one word jumped out: Budweiser, grabbing 7 of the top 15 spots of our rankings.

“The best scoring ads always tell a story with a beginning and an end, and a climax, and that’s what you see in the Budweiser ads,” says Glenn Kessler, president and CEO, HCD Research. “A lot of their ads tell a story that sometimes has drama.”

As it happens, the most effective ads on our list are consistently the ones that use a product within a narrative, whether in a humorous way or not. Even better than telling a story is adding a clarion call, says Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. That’s exactly what Denny’s did last year when it combined narrative and humor with a free breakfast, effectively getting customers into its restaurants. (Though with free food they probably could have dispensed of creativity completely.) Pepsi-owned brands also did well on our list, with ads that focused on comedy and entertainment, including the two audience-generated spots from last year’s Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest.

Click Image Below to Watch the 3 Worst-Performing Super Bowl Ads of Recent Years

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Here’s how we kept score. First, we accounted for the USA Today Ad Meter rankings for 2005-2009—an ad’s likeability is the first step toward getting new customers. Then we compared the share price of the parent company for the Friday before the Super Bowl to the average price the month after, modeled after a 2009 study that found a correlation between Super Bowl ads and share prices. (The majority of Super Bowl advertisers are owned by public companies; the median share price change was applied to privately-owned companies.) Then, we factored in mentions of the product in major US newspapers and on television news shows for the month before and after the ad aired. Finally, we included scores from the annual Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review, which evaluates every ad based on marketing criteria that try to translate branding into sales.

All factors were weighted equally. The ads are funny, dramatic, and silly—but above all, they’re effective. Watch them here.

Clark Merrefield researched and wrote this report.